The importance of small-t truth

This quote from the Swiss mathematician Euler sums up my response to those who raise questions about whether it would be better, or if I would be more a effective polemicist, if I took more care to avoid those uncomfortable facts and dangerous truths that might cause someone, somewhere, to feel hurt or otherwise offended.  This is from the beginning of Defense of the Divine Revelation:

The perfection of understanding consists of the knowledge of truth, from which is simultaneously born the knowledge of good. The principal aim of this knowledge is God and His works, since all other truths to which reflection can lead mankind end with the Supreme Being and His works. For God is the truth, and the world is the work of His almightiness and His infinite wisdom. Thus, the more man learns to know God and His works, the further he will advance in the knowledge of the truth, which contributes just as much to the perfection of his understanding.

The greatest perfection of understanding consists, therefore, of a perfect knowledge of God and His works. But since such knowledge is infinite, no understanding of it is possible. Consequently, the sovereign perfection of understanding can only be attributed to a single God. Man, in his state, is only able to grasp this knowledge to a very small degree. However, with respect to this, there can be a very considerable difference that is based on the diversity of abilities to understand, so that one man might grasp much more of this knowledge than another….

The knowledge of truth is the necessary foundation for the knowledge of good. For a known truth is reputed to be good, insofar as it can contribute something to improve our condition; and since God is the source of all truth, it is also rightly so that God is named as the ultimate good. The knowledge of good presupposes the knowledge of truth, and thus, even if a man strives to guide his understanding to a greater degree of perfection, he acquires at the same time a more extensive and distinct knowledge of good. It is clear that the knowledge of evil is also included in this, for he who knows good knows how to distinguish it from evil.

This, I suspect, is why the Bible makes a particular point of declaring woe to those who declare good to be evil and evil to be good.  The more small-t truth a man understands, the greater his knowledge of both good and evil.  Therefore, the more truth a man possesses, the more he possesses the ability to do either good or evil; this is why we can simultaneously discern considerable truth in historical documents such as Mein Kampf and The State and Revolution while decrying the uses to which Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin put their superior understandings.

But neither attempting to ascertain the truth or providing evidence to establish it can ever be considered anything but good, because it is necessary in order for their to be knowledge of good.  To paraphrase what Euler points out, the knowledge of truth is a prerequisite for the knowledge of good.  We cannot know what is right, we cannot determine what action is correct, if we do not first distinguish what is false from what is true.

And we cannot expect to understand even that portion of the Truth of which we are capable of comprehending if we intentionally turn our backs on the truth, not even if we do so in the name of St. Diversity or general good will to men.